You have been told over and over again to listen to your heart, but the people telling you this are not telling you the other half of the story. You probably already know what I'm talking about. There are hundreds of culturally familiar phrases like, "Follow your heart," "Always listen to your heart because it's always right," or "Your heart knows things that your mind can't explain." These quotes are literally all over the internet. There are also thousands of quotes on Pinterest, Instagram, and elsewhere that would seem to tell us to follow our hearts and feelings above all else. When it comes to your marriage, following your heart and only your heart will cause you more misery and heartache than nearly anything else.

Memorize this truth. Just because a thought or a feeling exists does not make it true.

Your Heart is All About Feelings

Just to be clear here, your actual heart is an organ in the left side of your chest that is at the center (or at the heart) of your circulatory system. For most of you, this is a refresher from Anatomy 101. Nonetheless, when the word "heart" is used in everyday communication, people are generally NOT referring to the organ in your chest. Instead, they are referring to someone's feelings, and more precisely, the core of those feelings. If you have recently been through a difficult time, someone might ask, "How is your heart doing through all of this?" In this instance, this person is not concerned about how well your heart organ is moving blood throughout your body. They DO want to know about your emotional state and the feelings coming from those emotions.

Since we are talking about feelings here, let's take this one step deeper. How many times, in a moment of panic or extreme frustration have you uttered to yourself, "I hate _________ and can't even stand to look at it/them!" My teenage daughter felt this way about me once as she held two fists tightly against her side as if her arms were steel pipes and growled, "I hate you!" That was many years ago and she and I both know that these words were uttered in a moment of extreme feelings about something she couldn't or wouldn't understand. If my daughter had acted out her feelings toward me at that moment, I might not be sitting at my computer typing out this story. YIKES, this sounds like the makings of a twisted Hollywood movie!

Our feelings are tied to our amygdala, the emotional core of our brains. Without some kind of check and balance on our feelings, those feelings would cause us to make some very poor choices, which consequently, would not really be choices at all. Instead, they would merely be reactions to how we were feeling at that moment. So, when someone says to "follow your heart," do not make the mistake of allowing your feelings only to guide your choices or reactions in any given circumstance.

Your Brain is All About Logic

It's no mistake that your brain's amygdala is positioned precisely under the prefrontal lobe of your brain. The prefrontal lobe is your brain's check and balance system. This is the part of your brain that says, "Slow down, wait a minute, let's add some logic to this situation." We have the ability to override this check and balance in our brains, but this would not be wise. Furthermore, if we over-ride this check and balance system often enough, our brains will begin to rewire the neuropathways between the amygdala and the prefrontal lobe. This means that the more that we try to "follow our heart," the easier it will become to ignore the check and balance to that. I realize this all sounds a bit technical because it is.

Please allow me to break all of this down for you. Following your heart (your feelings only) will train your brain not to throw a caution flag when it is needed the most. Instead, be deliberate to look for the check and balance (the logic in a situation) so that you can train your brain to be a good balance for your heart (feelings). Feelings are very powerful and can cause us to make a great deal of mistakes if we buy into some of our cultures missteps. After all, I am living and breathing today because my daughter did not act on her feelings alone. In fact, once she balanced out her feelings with logic, we had a great heart to heart talk about that whole ordeal.

You can listen to your heart when you need to understand your feelings, but you need to know there will be a time to stop listening to your heart and to engage your brain to start leading.

If you have any comments or questions about this post, we would love to hear from you in the comments below.

By Brad & Tami Miller. Contact us at Copyright © 2018

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